Welcome to the first day of Washington state’s annual Equity in Highly Capable Education Week! This year’s festivities include a Tuesday evening online event hosted by NWGCA, the annual WAETAG convention on Friday and Saturday, WAETAG‘s host a legislator in your classroom program, as well as daily advocacy messages on different topics from the Washington Coalition for Gifted Education.
What if every student in Washington State was considered for accelerated learning opportunities? Now they are!
by Austina De Bonte
The new highly capable law went into effect in July 2023. Here are the 3 major new pieces:
1. All school districts in Washington state must universally screen all students in a grade level for Highly Capable programs, once in or before 2nd grade, and again, in or before 6th grade. Universal screening may use existing test scores, but districts must gather at least two objective data points for each student, where no single datapoint can disqualify a student. Furthermore, subjective datapoints, such as report card grades or teacher recommendations can only be used to support a student’s qualification, never to disqualify. Any testing must happen during the regular school day (exceptions for special situations allowed with parent permission). However, many districts may not need to administer a new test if they have sufficient recent scores from SBA, iReady, STAR, MAP, etc. Note that districts should NOT be using dyslexia screening instruments as part of HiCap universal screening – this would unfairly exclude dyslexic students who often have very high verbal and math abilities. A referral process must still be available for all grade levels not being universally screened. 2. The state must now publicly report the enrollment of each school district’s Highly Capable program, broken down by all of the demographic categories that are tracked by the state. This will create much more visibility and accountability for school districts to get serious about ensuring equitable access to Highly Capable programs for historically underrepresented groups, such as low income students, multilingual students, students with disabilities (twice exceptional), highly mobile students, etc. Also the new law specifically mentions that districts are not limited to only identifying 5% of their student population; this was a frequent misunderstanding that has now been clarified. 3. A small but important change to terminology requires districts to stop using the word “nomination” for Highly Capable services, and instead use the word “referral.” Similarly districts are asked to have a process for “identification” and “placement,” rather than “selection.” Highly capable programs are intervention programs, not award programs, and the terminology should reflect that.Many districts are still working on getting into compliance with the new law. In parallel the state office of the superintendent of public instruction (OSPI) office is still working on finalizing the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) or the “rules” that go along with the new law, which tell districts more details about how to implement the law. Those rules may yet add important nuances as well. While there will likely be some grace for districts to get into full compliance until the WAC is finalized, this is a good time to ensure your school district is aware of the recent change in HiCap law and is taking steps towards universal screening. You can find the complete language concerning Highly Capable law in the Revised Code of Washington at the following links: